Author Archives: nicholasrhector

Pop Culture: Donald Glover (“Childish Gambino”) Has Been Far From Childish About Taking Over The Hip Hop Game

Donald Glover aka “Childish Gambino”

Tuesday evening, June 26, 2012, was the first night in which New York City was granted a reprieve from a four-day heat wave that had crushed the eastern seaboard.  I jumped on the F Train after work in business attire with one thing in mind: get to Prospect Park, Brooklyn as soon as possible to snag a good spot for the hottest concert of the summer.  Unlike any other concert I’ve been to, I was totally overdressed in a suit (primarily as a result of my lack of preparation), but the funny thing is that I knew I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb amongst the crowd.  I was off to see 28-year-old, preppy actor and comedian, hipster, Atlanta native, and now hip hop superstar Childish Gambino, a name Donald Glover adopted from a Wu-Tang Clan online name generator.

The doors opened at 6 pm, I arrived around 7:15 pm to meet up with a law school buddy, and I immediately felt at home and welcome.  Surrounding me were guys and gals in ripped up jean shorts and wife beaters; business casual attire; preppy polo shirts, jeans and driving loafers; and oversized white tees, baggy jeans and Air Jordans.  The age demographic ranged from early teens to late thirties.  Moreover, I’m quite sure the audience consisted of every race, religion and socio-economic class.  By around 7:45 pm, two great opening acts—Danny Brown and SchoolboyQ—reverberated the evening air.  I grabbed a frosty beer, loosened up the dress shirt, caught up with a couple of old friends who I randomly bumped into, and prepared myself for the best act I’ve seen on stage since The Roots/Outkast concert in Los Angeles back in the early 2000’s in college.

Around 8 pm, the crowd immediately converged towards the stage as the choir intro to “Outside”—the first song on Glover’s most recent album CAMP—began to blare through the amphitheatre speakers.  Childish entered from stage left, pierced a thick cloud of blue smoke, and completely KILLLED the stage until 10:30 pm, at which point he was forced to call it a night due to neighborhood noise ordinances.  He and his live band followed “Outside” with popular hits “Fire Fly” and “Bonfire”.  At this point, the audience assumed Glover would perform all of his songs from the album CAMP in their normal order.  Indeed, CAMP recently sat at the #11 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and the #2 spot on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts.  Then, he surprised us with some of his early underground hits such as “Hero”, “Freaks and Geeks”, “Lights Turned On” and “My Shine” from his July 2010 album Culdesac and March 2011 untitled EP.  The audience, apparently consisting of individuals who had been fans of Childish since the release of his first album Sick Boi in 2008, went absolutely nuts.  Of course, Glover didn’t exit the stage before performing his 2011 remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.  Indeed, during this song, all of Brooklyn attempted to touch the sky.

Overall, actor and comedian Donald Glover—aka Hip Hop star Childish Gamibino—is an extremely talented individual.  We knew this fact!  However, I realized on the evening of Tuesday, June 26th that he is taking over the Hip Hop game.  He has singlehandedly branded himself in a strategic manner, compelling one of the most diverse demographics of all time to adore and crave his music and energetic stage presence.  Hip Hop enthusiasts could attempt to compare him to the extremely talented Mos Def or an artist such as Lupe Fiasco, but he has transcended Hip Hop and captured the Millennial Generation like no other artist I can recall.  The New Yorker Magazine expounds, “with a vocal attack reminiscent of Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, Glover delivers rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness one-liners, along with in-depth and intelligent assessments of the recording industry, fame, and fortune.” But don’t take my or any other source’s word for it.  Snag his recently released July 4, 2012 album ROYALTY and/or catch him during his upcoming “CAMP” Tour that will grace the stages of 20 cities (thus far) across the globe.

“CAMP” Tour Dates:

June 25—Central Park Summerstage—New York, New York

June 26—Prospect Park Bandshell—Brooklyn, New York

July 1—Couleur Café Festival—Brussels, Belgium

July 3—Melkweg—Amsterdam, Netherlands

July 4—Xoyo—London, England

July 6—Wireless Festival in Hyde Park—London, England

July 7—T In The Park—Balado, Scotland

July 25—Beaumont Club—Kansas City, Missouri

July 27—Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre—Charlotte, North Carolina

July 28—The Orange Peel—Asheville, North Carolina

July 29—The National—Richmond, Virginia

July 31—Echo Beach—Toronto, Ontario

Aug. 1—Metropolis—Montreal, Quebec

Aug. 3—The Fillmore—Detroit, Michigan

Aug. 4—The Vic—Chicago, Illinois

Aug. 5—Lollapalooza—Chicago, Illinois

Aug. 10—Hollywood Palladium—Los Angeles, California

Aug. 17—The Academy—Dublin, Ireland

Aug. 18—V Festival—Chelmsford, England

Aug. 19—V Festival—Stafford, England

Aug. 20—King Tut’s—Glasgow, Scotland

Aug. 25—Rock En Seine—Paris, France

Oct. 14—Austin City Limits—Austin, Texas

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Fansagainstviolence.org enlightens us regarding new California Legislation

Thanks to our friends at FAV (www.fansagainstviolence.org), we received an update today concerning the proposed California legislation “Improving Personal Safety at Stadiums Act.”  The organization notes that “[i]t is FAV’s mission to encourage fan safety at professional sporting events through education, discussion and partnerships with like-minded organizations. We believe that attending sporting events is an act of fellowship and community between fans, and that each person who attends a professional sporting event should feel safe and be protected by the hosting facility and franchise.”  Kathy Samoun, a devoted Oakland Raiders fan, founded the organization and authored today’s enlightening article.  Among other things, she explained that the California Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media unanimously adopted the legislation today following several critical amendments to the proposed bill.  Certainly, this new California legislation could be the catalyst to compel other states to create necessary change.  Please click on the link above to enjoy Kathy’s article and further support a great organization!

Where the Regulation of Violence in Sports Will Inevitably Extend: The Stands & Outside the Stadium/Arena

The University of Kentucky fans "celebrate" the Wildcats' Final Four win over Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

The professional and college sports industries have without question reached milestones with respect to revenue generation over the past decade.  Both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association experienced pre-season lockouts and subsequent consuming negotiation sessions with their respective players’ unions concerning profit sharing.  In 2010, the NCAA signed a monumental $10.8 billion contract with CBS Corporation and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting for the media rights to its beloved Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament, known by most as March Madness.

It goes without saying that fans are the impetus behind such revenue growth.  Whether a country and its citizens are facing a recession—even bankruptcy—or marvelous economic times, avid followers and fans of professional and college sports teams will pay hard-earned money for the pleasure drawn from watching talented athletes perform for up to three hours on the field, court or ice.  Fans will do so by attending such events, watching them at bars/restaurants, or through the purchase of oversized, flat-screen televisions for home.  David Levy, the President of Turner Sports, acknowledged in signing the March Madness media contract with the NCAA that “the tournament’s popularity and success [had outgrown] the ability for one network to provide all the coverage fans are looking for.”  Similarly, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus recognized, “the opportunity for viewers to watch whatever game they want to on up to four different networks has to result in more eyeballs, more gross rating points and more exposure for the tournament, thereby creating much more value for the advertisers.”

I think it’s awesome that fans of professional and college sports teams continue to use this source of entertainment as an escape from the struggles facing the lives of individuals on a daily basis in many countries around the globe, including financial turmoil, disease, death and general unhappiness.  However, over the same decade that the sports industry has experienced rapid revenue growth and increased popularity, the fan experience at and following sporting events has become more violent, tragic and unpleasant.  A problem clearly exists that neither the professional leagues, the NCAA Directors nor the athletes have sufficiently addressed, or are even equipped to address.

Indeed, the European professional soccer leagues have essentially condoned fan violence since their creation.  The Philadelphia Eagles’ late Veterans Stadium maintained holding cells to accommodate unruly fans.  These facts represent proof that the sports industry has accepted violence as part of the overall fan experience for quite some time.  For instance, in 2004, Lakers forward Ron Artest—or as legal documents now refer to him, Metta World Peace—climbed into the stands as an Indiana Pacer at The Palace of Auburn hills to exchange punches with a few rambunctious fans. In 2010, I attended a New York Jets game in New York as an Atlanta Falcons fan and was threatened by four Jets fans following the Falcons’ last minute defeat of the Jets.  Fortunately, violence never ensued, though not as a result of action taken by stadium security.  In 2011, a San Francisco Giants fan experienced the wrath of Dodger Stadium when several Dodger fans beat him almost to the point of death.  And just a few weeks ago, University of Kentucky basketball fans nearly burned down and destroyed Lexington, KY, following the Wildcats’ Final Four win over state rival Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

However, what has either been condoned or overlooked by these leagues and the NCAA will inevitably draw a divide between fans, compelling those who are visiting the home stadium or establishment (e.g., sports bar) of an opposing team to discontinue their participation.  This decreased fan participation and interest will inevitably compel revenue to decline for the professional sports leagues, the NCAA, media outlets and corporate partners and sponsors.  Should violence and unpleasant behavior by fans persist at or following sporting events, how could it not have a domino impact on the sports industry?

So, where should we as fans and professionals in the industry place blame and seek assistance in preventing this evolving problem?  First and foremost, responsibility should be placed on the individuals who are involved in such inappropriate behavior.  Fans have progressively turned their allegiance to sports teams into something personal.  However, sustaining a loss through a favorite team is not analogous to losing a love one.  Fans must realize that their personal lives will continue unscathed, so long as they categorize sporting events as entertainment and nothing more.  This point allows me to transition to my second and final position.  The professional sports leagues, the NCAA, the athletes, the media outlets and the corporate partners and sponsors must take on the responsibility of reminding fans of this fact.  Indeed, most professional sporting venues stop serving alcohol at a certain point during team play.  College venues refuse to serve alcohol altogether.  Great, by taking alcohol out of the picture, these entities and individuals have indirectly implied to the fans that they should behave responsibly.  However, I’m asking—maybe even pleading to—these same entities and individuals to make a direct and blatant statement to the fans: “Stop the violence and inappropriate behavior!”  The NFL has already done so much to prevent violence on the field in an effort to protect its brand and revenue stream.  Take the next step and prevent it from occurring in the stands and outside the stadium.

Hey guys, it’s your money, not mine, that’s being placed on the line.

A Belated Defense of Kendrick Perkins

This piece was written by guest author Jack Rollo, a lawyer and sports & entertainment enthusiast.  Please welcome him to the THIRDandFOUR family.

I would like to thank Chris Ryan for being unable to let something go.  A few months ago, LA Clippers star Blake Griffin threw down a rather impressive dunk on Oklahoma City’s defensive-minded center, Kendrick Perkins.  At the time, many commentators felt that it was necessary to not only praise Griffin’s athleticism, but to mock Perkins — who was simply trying to do his job — as well.  This was disgraceful, and, sadly, representative of the sports media (and media in general) as a whole.  I wanted to write something about it, but I was too busy and time passed.  Now, two months later, Chris Ryan has decided to refer back to Griffin’s “postering” of and “mid-air obituary” for Perkins.  In doing so, he perpetuates the most negative aspects of the media, but has reopened the door for me to say my peace.  So thanks again, Chris Ryan.

Kendrick Perkins plays defense.  And he plays it hard.  Because of this, it is widely known that Perk is a Beast.  Now, it shouldn’t be noteworthy that a man who gets paid millions of dollars to play a game actually works hard on the defensive end of the floor, but it is.  Perkins is limited in his offensive abilities, but he is unquestionably a valuable NBA player because he is a large man (even by NBA standards) who plays defense and grabs rebounds with a fury that far exceeds most others in the league.  This fury led to Perkins trying to defend Griffin on a play where, in reality, Perkins had little chance of defensive success.  Griffin is too big, too athletic, had too much momentum, and was too close to the rim for Perkins to stop him.  Of course, in real time, it’s hard to make that kind of judgment, so Perkins tried and failed.  Griffin threw down an incredible dunk.  Perkins was posterized.

This same fate has fallen upon other NBA players, which makes sense.  If you work on the defensive end, it almost certainly will happen to you.  Some of your opponents will have extraordinary physical gifts, and your attempts to stop them will be in vain.  Of course, other NBA players are never posterized.  They avoid doing so in a rather simple manner: they don’t attempt to play defense.  When an opposing player elevates to dunk, they simply let him do so.  Nobody ever writes their “mid-air obituaries.”  They never look foolish on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Night.

In fact, SportsCenter’s Top 10 probably perhaps best captures the problem I am addressing.  How often on the Top 10 do you see some version of the following: “A monster dunk by Player X.  His team lost by 20 points” or “A monster dunk from Player X, but he had a rough night overall.  He shot 2-847 from the floor and had eleventy billion turnovers”?  If his team got crushed or he had a terrible game, why should we celebrate Player X’s monster dunk?  He had a bad night.  He did not help his team win.  He did not perform his job.  We are celebrating the momentary individual achievement over the team.  We are celebrating the meaningless over the valuable.

And in team sports, one of the most valuable attributes a player can have is defensive intensity.  It is no coincidence that NBA champions frequently have a player on their roster who is there for his defense.  Defense is fundamental to winning, and it’s fundamentals that should be celebrated.  Kobe Bryant best illustrates this point.  Bryant is a star because he is a prodigious scorer, but he is one of the greatest players of all time because of his fundamentals.  He is widely known as one of the league’s elite defenders.  Even his scoring is predicated largely on fundamentals, as he has one of the greatest mid-range games of all time.  This gets ignored.  Watch the Top 10 and tell me how many mid-range jump shots you see.

What I want is for us to celebrate consistent hard work and effort over a single flashy play; celebrate substance over style.  Bryant has his fundamentals because he is a notoriously obsessive worker. Likewise, defensive success is predicated mostly on tenacity.  Perkins, on that famous play, put forth effort and came up short.  There are countless plays, however, where Perkins’s effort will lead to success.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the best teams in the league, one of the most complete teams in the league, and one of the favorites to at least reach, if not win, the 2012 NBA title.  Kendrick Perkins is a major reason why.

We should all approach work and life the way Perkins plays defense.  Work hard.  Be tenacious.  Make the most of the talents we have.  And when we see our personal Blake Griffin charging toward the hoop, have the courage to step in and try to stop him, even if we probably can’t.  Griffin’s dunk on Perkins should not be referred to as “postering” or a “mid-air obituary” or any other crime against the English language.  It should be referred to as a man, Perkins, working hard to do his job and, in one moment, failing to succeed.  Perkins should be praised, not mocked.  Regardless, I would imagine that, because Perkins is a professional, he has shaken off that night and that moment.  I would imagine he still plays defense with heart and without fear.  I hope so.  It’s a lesson that all of us can and should import into our own lives.  Here’s hoping the sports media find some cute terminology to promote that story, too.

– Jack Rollo

Thanksgiving

As I woke up this morning and scheduled my Thanksgiving day, which included determining whether to eat breakfast or maintain an empty stomach for dinner, whether I, at age 30, could muster up enough confidence to ask my mother if I could eat dinner while watching football, and whether I could feasibly touch base with all of my friends and family on this holiday, it hit me!  In the illustrious words of John F. Kennedy, on Thanksgiving, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Now, as I sit before my Parents’ “only in America must I purchase this size” television and watch the first of three NFL games scheduled for today, I observe individuals who truly live by their words on this Thanksgiving day.  First and foremost, I see American soldiers stationed at army bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and a number of other regions who are football fans and watching the same game as me.  The NFL has provided a live broadcast of these troops rooting for their respective teams to display its and America’s appreciation for these soldiers and their role in risking their lives while keeping our country safe.  While these soldiers put on a happy face via the FOX broadcast, you can’t help but realize that they must maintain at all times in the back of their minds the thought that potential violence is just around the corner, or maybe even just over their shoulder.  They are all stationed in violent war zones, yet they live by their promise to this country on Thanksgiving day to protect us so that we can–among other things–enjoy our family and friends, stuff our faces, and overindulge in football, carbohydrates, and discounts on items at stores around the country.

Secondly, I observe well-paid individuals strap on pads and a helmet and spend either their Thanksgiving afternoon or evening entertaining America…and even other parts of the world.  Though these football players on average make more money annually than 99.99999% of Americans, they step onto football fields within stadiums and domes around this country and work on Thanksgiving day.  They work hard.  They are passionate about what they do.  As a direct result, football entertains Americans and, in certain instances, permits these individuals to either forget about the fact that they got laid off, lost a family member or friend, or learned that they are ill.  Football is a blessing for many on Thanksgiving day, even for our soldiers.  As a direct result, NFL players live by their promise to the League and, to a certain extent, this country on Thanksgiving day to entertain us Americans and provide us a sense of joy for at least one day out of the year.

Accordingly, thank you to our soldiers and others who work so hard on Thanksgiving day to permit Americans to be so thankful for everything and everyone around them.

NBA Athletes and Their Hip-Hop Counterparts

Written by Guest Author Marcus Banks

Executive Editors: Nicholas R. Hector & Andrew Fine

About the Author: Marcus Banks graduated from Franklin Pierce University in 2010. He has previously worked for the National Basketball Association, THG Sports and Entertainment, Turner Sports, and Turner Broadcasting and Entertainment. He is now attending New York Law School and hopes to pursue a career in entertainment/talent and sports management.

I would like to first give a shout-out to Nick and Andrew for allowing me to share my thoughts. Second, what follows consists solely of my thoughts and nothing more.  If anyone disagrees with me, please don’t take offense and feel free to provide me feedback through comments.  Now without further ado, I present to you my first article for THIRDandFOUR, “NBA Athletes and Their Hip-Hop Counterparts.”

Over the past couple decades, The NBA has been infused by hip-hop culture, notwithstanding Commissioner David Stern’s disdain towards a comparison of his “white-collar” league to a group of talented yet sometimes rebellious individuals.  Nonetheless, many of the league’s players have embraced the analogy.  As a result, I shall attempt to write about something that, based on my knowledge, has never been previously addressed; I will draw strict comparisons of influential NBA Athletes to their hip-hop counterparts.

I’ll start with my God-father Jay-Z and his counterpart Kobe Bryant. I recognize that this comparison is not obvious, but hear me out.  In my opinion, Kobe is arguably the best individual to ever play the game and Jay-Z is the best individual to ever pick up the microphone. For those asking, what about Jordan or Magic, don’t worry, we’ll get there.  People have argued that Kobe is good, but the reason that those same people will never consider him the singular greatest basketball player of all time is because he never played against Jordan—the greatest NBA player in most people’s eyes during his prime.  During Jordan’s prime, Kobe represented the kid with the afro who ran around the court and shot air balls, all the while veterans like Nick Van Exel gave him dirty looks.  In contrast, Jordan was a star on the court. When Kobe eventually hit his prime, or at least commenced his ascension towards it, Jordan’s career was essentially done and he had commenced his ebb towards retirement.

Likewise, Jay-Z spent most of his career battling “ghosts.”  I consistently hear he will never be better than Biggie and/or Tupac, but truth be told, you can never make a legitimate argument regarding that comparison because he never had an opportunity to battle either one of them. Just like Kobe and Jordan, when Biggie held the throne, Jay-Z was running around in Hawaiian shirts attempting to make a name for himself.

When he hit his prime (aka “took over the rap game”), Biggie and Tupac were gone.  R.I.P.

Additionally, for the lack of better words, Kobe Bryant is starting to appear worn-out. His performance in the 2010-11 playoffs was not too impressive; though, he got very little help from Pau Gasol.  However, the Kobe we all know and love and/or hate, would’ve put the Lakers on his back and pulled them through the challenge to complete the three-peat. The same performance withdrawal has plagued Jay-Z.  Every Jay-Z album has been a great compilation of music. But his last performance on the album “Watch the Throne” was far from his best work. As a whole, the album was a masterpiece, but it often sounded like a Kanye West album featuring Jay-Z, rather than a compilation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still regard Jay-Z as the best lyricist, but he seems either a little disinterested or repetitive in his flow. Maybe that’s just what happens when you’re worth half of a billion dollars. Whatever the reason, he no longer provides the same level of aggression and rawness that we have grown accustom to experiencing and appreciating. And when I say, “we,” I mean the real Jay-Z fans and not the ones who just started listening to him upon his release of The Blueprint album. You can possibly make the argument that Jay-Z is more like a Bill Russell, primarily because of Russell’s eleven rings and Jay-Z’s eleven number one albums.  You can also make the argument that Jay-Z is more like Jordan because he’s the greatest NBA player of all time. Whatever your argument might be, more power to it.  I would love to hear it.  But, as I previously mentioned, my argument is based primarily upon the fact that Jay-Z will never have an opportunity to go up against Biggie or Tupac, particularly when all three artists were in their prime; nor will Kobe ever have an opportunity to go up against Jordan or Magic when all three athletes were in their prime.

Next on my list is J. Cole and his counterpart Derrick Rose. There are many reasons why these two individuals mirror each other, so let’s start at the beginning: Derrick Rose is slowly taking over the game of basketball. But what I love most about him is the way he is doing it. He has attacked the sport like a snake lying in wait for his prey. He has not made a big spectacle out of it nor has he been abrasive.  Moreover, he’s quietly becoming an on-the-court assassin. When Derrick Rose steps on the floor, you know he’s bringing 100% effort and heart, much like a modern day version of Allen Iverson who can also pass the ball exceptionally well.  D-Rose may not have the best jump shot, but it’s improving.

To further touch upon D-Rose’ assassin mentality, in the 2008-09 Bulls vs. Celtics playoff series, many of you probably recall that Ben Gordon was clutch and that John Salmons had his coming out party. What many people fail to notice is that Derrick Rose—as a rookie—had a solid 16 points and 6 assists per game.  Derrick Rose is considered the future of the NBA, particularly for those fans who like gritty and aggressive basketball players, rather than a bunch of “pretty boy” jump shooters. Derrick Rose serves as a reminder of when some of us adults were kids playing basketball in the park: when you got the ball and if you were man enough, you drove to the basket, took the hit, probably switched hands and maybe even impressed yourself with a lay-up that miraculously went into the basket.  Finally, Derrick Rose is very reserved and smart, doing his best to protect his brand and professional image.  You won’t find him living too lavishly or beyond his means or in the streets with an entourage.

The same sentiments translate to J. Cole.  I remember the first time that I heard J. Cole rap.  I experienced the same feeling that I received when I first saw Derrick Rose play basketball at Memphis as a freshman. I just knew that if he fell into the right environment and remained focused, he would take over the industry as a hip-hop artist one day. J. Cole is slowly becoming the most relevant rapper in the industry. He paid his dues, took his time and is progressively getting better. Just like Derrick Rose, J. Cole is taking over his profession quietly and strategically. His growth is most evident if you listen to his first mix-tape through his current album. He is not the best lyricist, but he’s certainly getting there.  He has become more versatile, developed a better flow, displayed more charisma, expounded on genuine issues, and become a better performer.  If you enjoy real hip-hop music—not the nonsense that we’ve dealt with for a while now—J. Cole is your guy.

Moreover, J. Cole, similar to D-Rose, is also very reserved and smart and is doing a good job thus far of preserving a solid image.  For instance, J. Cole has both turned down a limo ride from P. Diddy and a diamond chain from a jeweler. Why? Well, because at the time, he had just signed his record deal with Roc Nation and didn’t want to promenade around New York City as if he was “the man.”  Most importantly, he knew that he had not reached that level yet.  J. Cole is a breath of fresh air, a sign that good music is still possible, a sign of better days to come.  Last but certainly not least, J. Cole’s debut album hit number one on the billboard charts, which was much deserved. When J. Cole creates lines like, “I promise baby you can bet the bank on me,” you can’t help but notice his humble confidence. These two words wouldn’t normally find themselves aligned, but when you consider Derrick Rose and J. Cole, the description fits them perfectly. They are both so talented, they know it, yet they don’t boast about it.  In fact, they are both extremely underrated. When Derrick Rose won the NBA MVP award this past season, the“naysayers” criticized the League’s choice, saying he was good but not good enough, or that he was not better than Chris Paul or Deron Williams during the season.  J. Cole, as well, still faces criticism about him not being better than Drake or other young hip-hop artists in the music industry. It still remains to be seen how good these two men can be, but what the World does know is that J. Cole has the number one album and Derrick Rose holds the MVP trophy.  In my opinion, the future of hip-hop and the future of the NBA are both in good hands.

Next up, I will discuss Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his counterpart Tupac.  In the infancy of their careers, critics viewed Magic Johnson as flashy yet fun, while they classified Tupac as rigid and rough around the edges.  Though the two stars may have been polar opposites in there respective fields, they are actually very similar because they always did things their way.  When Tupac came on the scene in the 1990’s, he was a young kid rapping about being on the wrong side of the law.  It worked for him considering he amassed an immense base of fans.  Then, Tupac diversified himself when he began rapping about his appreciation of females in one of his most popular songs to date, “Keep Your Head Up.”

Indeed, “Keep Your Head Up” conveyed a complete opposite message from what his fans were used to hearing.  Tupac transitioned his lyrics from “gun-busting” to “appreciating and loving your sister.” As a result of him making this transition, he obtained an even larger fan base.  This served as a successful tool for Tupac to grow his brand because critics no longer labeled him as merely a Death Row Records advocate.  He was versatile.  They labeled him as a poet from the hood, a gangster rapper and arguably, the face of hip-hop.  By both holding up and standing under both umbrellas, he drafted the blueprint for rappers that followed in his footsteps, such as Nas and DMX, who sought to deliver a versatile mix of hardcore gangster rap and poetic, thought-provoking rap.

Likewise, Magic Johnson represented similar versatility.  The NBA has been and is a game of drastically diverse styles: the LeBron James power game, the Allen Iverson street game, and the Shaquille O’Neal dominance game, just to name a few.  Very few NBA players since the Jerry West and “Pistol” Pete Maravich era have successfully emulated their flashy but conservative style of basketball.  Then, “The Magic Man” entered from stage left.  He immediately made the former style of flashy yet conservative basketball popular and extremely entertaining, so much so that he changed the name of his team.  Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers were no longer just L.A.’s team, rather they were Hollywood’s team; they were nicknamed the “Showtime Lakers,” and mostly thanks to Magic’s no-look passes, fancy dribbling and all around entertaining style of basketball.  Lakers’ fans grew to love and anticipate this style of basketball every time they entered the Forum.  Though Magic’s style wasn’t as popular throughout the rest of the League, he continued to do things his way, and we can all agree that he was great at it.  Magic’s style of play spearheaded a basketball revolution, and not only did he gain a strong fan base in California, he was loved around the World, except for maybe in Boston.

Moreover, commentators considered Magic Johnson a “freak of nature” because of his excellent ball handling skills and court vision, despite his abnormally large 6’9’’ frame.  To Magic’s advantage, he was probably the most versatile athlete in the NBA during his prime.  He could play every position on the court, including Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward and Center at any given time.  It was not surprising to see Magic dribbling between his legs against the 6’1’’ Isaiah Thomas or shooting the famous hook-shot over the 6’10” Kevin McHale and the 7’0” Robert Parish.

Both of these well-accomplished and admired men shocked the world through their abrupt and controversial career-ending moments. Tupac was gunned down on the Las Vegas strip following a Mike Tyson fight in November 1996.  His murderer has yet to be captured.  Somewhat similarly, Magic Johnson retired during a nationally televised press conference just before the start of the 1991-92 NBA season after contracting HIV.  Not shockingly, the world was distraught, bothered, hurt, and upset by both of their departures.

Next, I will discuss Eminem and his counterpart Dwyane Wade.  I draw this comparison based on two factors: (i) their “business partners;” and (ii) the brief professional interruptions during their careers.  With respect to business partners—who are often referred to in the hip-hop and NBA cultures as “running mates”—Eminem teamed up with 50 cent to form Shady Records/Aftermath Entertainment.  When 50 cent stormed onto the rap scene, many people immediately crowned him as being great, forgetting about the enormity of his running mate.  Granted 50 Cent sold millions of records and garnered a grandiose fan base, he has shown that he is nowhere near as talented of an artist as Eminem, primarily because his tracks lack sincerity, originality and depth. Though the fans and critics momentarily disregarded Eminem and placed him on the back burner upon 50 Cent’s arrival, they have come to realize that Eminem is still the superior artist.

Eminem, accordingly, has come back with a vengeance.  His “Relapse” album wasn’t great, but “Recovery,” released on June 18, 2010, was a masterpiece.  In short, the album proved that Eminem remains a lyrical genius.

Similarly, Dwyane Wade, the star Shooting Guard for the Miami Heat, had to momentarily hand over the keys to Dade County when LeBron James took his talents to Miami at the commencement of the 2010-11 NBA season.  A large contingency of NBA fans immediately crowned the Heat NBA Champions, while they simultaneously crowned Lebron James the most talented and seasoned basketball player on the team.  Though LeBron James may be as talented as D-Wade, most NBA fans can agree that his performance in the 2010-11 Finals proved that Dwyane Wade dwarfs him with respect to veteran experience and an innate ability to take over critical games.   During the 2010-11 Finals, Wade was clutch, smarter with respect to his shot selection, a better defender, a true leader, and most importantly, Wade exuded professionalism and a drive to win at all costs.  Ultimately, Dwyane Wade displayed that Miami remains his team.

In final, Dwyane Wade and Eminem both took brief hiatuses from their professional careers, yet they weren’t missed.  Eminem took a leave of absence from the music industry because of his confessed drug addiction.  Dwyane Wade took an involuntary leave of absence from the NBA due to injuries and a personnel shakeup within his team.  When the two entertainers disappeared, rumors spread that their careers were complete.  Nonetheless, they both reemerged and exploded on the scene, reminding us fans why we should have never counted them out.

Try “Duranting”

Tim Tebow kneels in celebration of the Broncos' win over the Dolphins

Directly following the Denver Broncos’ comeback win over the dreadful 0-7 Miami Dolphins on Sunday October 23rd, Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow, in signature fashion, kneeled in reflection while his other teammates wildly celebrated the improbable win.  Tebow—a second year NFL quarterback who has acquired a reputation for publicly displaying his Christian faith since starring as a Heisman “quarterback” for the Florida Gators—has also gained a reputation for having the lowest quarterback rating (QBR) in the NFL while maintaining a starting role at quarterback this year.

Is anyone shocked, though? Tebow is not, and never was, the stereotypical quarterback.  As a senior at Florida, he threw 21 touchdowns, yet rushed for almost the same number (14).  Florida fans grew to anticipate and love his quarterback sneaks into the end zone, where he rode piggyback on the shoulders of his fullback or offensive line, or personally bulldozed several linebackers as if they were crash test dummies.  Notwithstanding Tebow’s endless drive to excel and win, his former tactics clearly have not worked in the NFL.  NFL players are bigger and quicker, and as a quarterback, you can’t sit in the pocket for nine seconds without getting rid of the ball.  He has had flashes of brilliance this season mostly due to his pure athleticism, but they have been largely outweighed by his miserable decision making as the field general.

Surprisingly, conversation and criticism regarding Tebow’s poor play during his two starts as the Broncos quarterback this season have taken a backseat to banter regarding his signature kneel.  Indeed, following his ugly comeback win against the Dolphins on October 23rd, an immediate Internet craze baptized his kneel as “Tebowing.”  And since then, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tight end Tony Scheffler celebrated significant plays against the Broncos last Sunday by Tebowing.  Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweeted pictures of him Tebowing in a fast food restaurant.  Moreover, the media has butted heads as to whether such imitation amounts to either disrespect and mocking of Tebow’s faith or mere playful entertainment.

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweets a picture of him "Tebowing" in a restaurant

Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch strikes a "Tebowing" pose immediately following his sack of the quarterback

Personally, I haven’t quite decided who is right or wrong with respect to the issue.  Nonetheless, I can confidently state that if you are a professional athlete, the act of Tebowing opens you up to more negative criticism than praise, even when your intentions are playful and innocent.  How does it possibly promote your brand as a professional?  It doesn’t.  If anything, professional athletes who imitate the kneel risk coming off as absolute jerks who are insensitive towards other individuals’ faith and the ways in which they express it.  They further risk alienating themselves from the aforementioned fan base.

Accordingly, I’d like to highlight another figure in professional sports who is worthy of more than mere imitation: Oklahoma City star forward Kevin Durant.  This past Monday, October 31st, Durant—one of many NBA players who currently sits on the sidelines while Billy Hunter and the Player’s Association negotiates with the league and its owners regarding a new collective bargaining agreement—decided to engage his twitter followers by expressing his boredom and need to be active.  Soon thereafter, the following tweets were exchanged between Durant and Oklahoma State student George Overbey regarding a possible opportunity for Durant to join George’s Fraternity in a flag football game that night:

@KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..I need to run around or something!

@groverbey: Got a game tonight in Stillwater!! I need a deep threat!! RT @KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..

@KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play

@groverbey: Can you catch?? Weve won the ‘ship for 3 years! Tonight @ 10 RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play

@KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?

@groverbey: Only if you bring your A game. Yes for real! Come up early and hangout, go over some plays RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?

Durant and George subsequently exchanged several private twitter messages and text messages, which led to Durant picking up George and several of his friends from their residence in his lavish—but very modest—van and driving them to the flag football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

On the football field, Durant further cemented his reputation as being both an elite athlete and a stand up guy.  Though the Oklahoma City Thunder could have likely voided his five-year $86 million contract extension due to kick-in this year had Durant sustained a serious injury on the field that night[1], he played the entire flag football game, recorded four touchdown passes on offense and three interceptions on defense.  He left the game in the same modest fashion by which he arrived, signing hundreds of autographs and interacting with just about every fan that reached out to him.

Most importantly, Durant left his fans with the sentiment that he doesn’t consider himself special or incapable of interacting with any of them on any given day.  Clearly, he’s just another one of the guys.  George Overbey summed it up best:

@groverbey: Had one of the best nights of my life tonight.. Game ball goes to @KDTrey5 . 4 tds and 3 picks! Thanks for coming up bro!

As a young professional, often your success directly correlates to the small decisions you make along your career path.  Thus far, Durant has figured “it” out, and has made all of the right decisions to propel his professional image off of the charts.  To all of you professional athletes who are attempting to brand yourself in a similar fashion, try “Duranting.”


[1] Most NBA Team-Player contracts establish that teams have the discretion to void players’ contracts where they engage in any activity that would subject them to more than a normal risk of injury.  For instance, in 2003, the Chicago Bulls waived the contract of second-year player Jay Williams following his involvement in a motorcycle accident that seriously injured him.  The team maintained that his contract was no longer legally enforceable and that it did not have to payout his remaining salary because he violated the contract by riding a motorcycle and injuring himself.  Williams, nonetheless, received a $3 million buyout from the Bulls as a parting gift.

Are the London Riots A Threat To The 2012 Summer Olympic Games?

It has been just under a week since the London Riots of 2011 engulfed major parts of the city, leading to nearly 1,200 arrests, intense fear among the city’s residents, and a racial tension between certain London communities thick enough to cut with a knife.  Certain of the city’s officials worry that the riots are a mere indication of what will transpire in the future.  Indeed, New York Times journalist John Burns reported on Wednesday that “police and political leaders worr[y] about a potentially explosive new pattern of interracial violence that could be set off by the past four days of mayhem.”

The violence in London could not have come at a worse time.  Just two weeks ago, the city celebrated its one-year countdown to the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, scheduled to commence on July 27, 2012.  Concurrently, several International Olympic Committee (IOC) members arrived and still remain in the city, as they review London’s progress in completing its athletic facilities and an Olympic friendly environment.  As a result of the recent violence—which reached within four miles of the main Olympic Stadium and other key venues on Monday—the IOC has witnessed the cancellation, postponement and/or interruption of several Olympic test games and matches associated with the start of the English soccer season.  Certainly, this image is far from what London wanted to convey to the IOC during one of its last visits to the city prior to the commencement of the Summer Games.

Thus, the question arises, would the IOC ever reschedule, move, or cancel the 2012 Summer Olympic Games based on the recent violence or the potential for future violence in London?

In the 115-year existence of the Summer Olympic Games, the Games have been cancelled only three times—and each time, the World was in the middle of a massive war (i.e., either WWI or WWII).  It goes without saying that the IOC did not have to consult a rulebook prior to each of the aforementioned cancellations to determine whether the Committee’s decision was appropriate.  However, to determine whether the IOC would ever reschedule, move, or cancel the 2012 Summer Olympic Games as a result of the recent violence or the potential for violence in London, I consulted the Olympic Charter.   The Charter is a set of rules and guidelines that has been adopted by the IOC and ultimately “governs the organization, action and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”

Pursuant to Rule 33 of the Charter, the host city agrees to organize an Olympic Summer Games experience that is, among other things, competitive and fair for the athletes, but most importantly safe for all individuals:

The Olympic host city “must submit to the IOC a legally binding instrument by which the said government undertakes and guarantees that the country and its public authorities will comply with and respect the Olympic Charter.”  Further, the National Olympic Committee (NOC)—the committee that develops, promotes and protects the Olympic Movement for the host country—“must guarantee that the Olympic Games will be organized to the satisfaction of and under the conditions required by the IOC.”

According to Rule 33, London is treading in deep water.  With only a year to go before the city hosts the Summer Olympic Games, violence has ensnarled the neighborhoods within miles of the primary athletic venues.  Currently, the host city is not safe, and should the violence persist, London arguably would be in breach of the abovementioned agreement with the IOC.  So, with this potential outcome, can the IOC designate and prepare an alternate city to host the Summer Games?

At first glance, the answer appears to be a clear yes.  Pursuant to Rule 34 of the Charter, “[a]ll sports competition must take place in the host city of the Olympic Games, unless the IOC Executive Board authorizes the organization of certain events in other cities, sites or venues situated in the same country.”  Thus, it initially appears that the IOC can move the Summer Games, or at least certain events or venues, to other cities within the United Kingdom.  Not so fast.  Bylaw, Rule 34 specifies that “[a]ny request to organize any event, discipline or other sports competition in any other city or location than the host city itself must be presented in writing to the IOC at the latest prior to the visit of the Evaluation Commission for candidate cities.”  In other words, The IOC can only grant a request from a host city (e.g., London) to relocate the Summer Games to another city where the request is submitted prior to the Commission approving London as the Olympic Games host.

Hmm…  Interestingly, Rule 34 does not specify whether the IOC can relocate the games without a city’s relocation request.  I’d imagine the same rules apply under such circumstances, but do they?

Rule 36 of the Charter provides that “in the event of non compliance with the Olympic Charter or other regulations or instructions of the IOC, or a breach of the obligations entered into by the NOC, the OCOG [i.e., an organizing committee created by the NOC] or the host city, the IOC is entitled to withdraw, at any time and with immediate effect, the organization of the Olympic Games from the host city, the OCOG and the NOC, without prejudice to compensation for any damage thereby caused to the IOC. In such a case, the NOC, the OCOG, the host city, the country of the host city and all their governmental or other authorities, or any other party, whether at any city, local, state, provincial, other regional or national level, shall have no claim for any form of compensation against the IOC.”

Ah-ha!  Though the IOC has to meet somewhat of a hefty burden, it can withdraw the Olympic Games from the host city at any time based on the city’s failure to comply with the Charter.  Thus, while it appears the IOC cannot relocate or reschedule the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, it maintains the power to cancel them altogether as if WWI or WWII is occurring all over again.  My message to London is simple: reign in your social unrest before the IOC bypasses your city for Rio in 2016!

Friday Morning Workout

A-Rod under investigation by MLB for allegedly participating in high stakes, illegal poker games with Hollywood’s elite.

NFL players officially ratify a new ten-year CBA on Thursday.  Under the agreement, Goodell retains exclusive authority to discipline players under the personal conduct policy, and the NFL becomes the first league to implement HGH testing.

Kansas City Chiefs TE Leonard “Champ” Pope attributes the lockout to him saving a child’s life.

Why on earth do so many athletes want to become musicians?  An answer may not exist to this question.  However, Here’s ESPN’s list of musicians who would make it’s starting five.

Roethlisberger’s civil sexual assault case still on in Reno.

NFL’s most flamboyant personalities.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is betting on a cancelled 2011-12 season, while encouraging his players to work elsewhere.

Rather than waiting for the players to decertify and sue, as the NFLPA did this year, the NBA owners took their own legal initiative.

Track NBA players who intend to play or are considering playing overseas.

The Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings is spending his NBA lockout interning at Under Armour

NASCAR Drivers are using Social Media to promote themselves and their sponsors

Comcast is suing DirecTV over ‘Deceptive’ Claims of Free Televised Games

Former Gridiron Great and Movie “Star” Bubba Smith passed away this week.  Here’s a nice tribute to him from Michael Weinreb

The Harvard Business Review outlines Six Steps to Successful Sponsorships

This guy has over 2,000 pairs of Nike shoes.  And he shows you all of them in just 11 minutes. He also built a museum for them.

Want to be a Sports Agent in California? Make sure you’re in accordance with this new law.

Braylon Edwards has a big week!  First, authorities implicate him in a bar fight in Michigan.  Then he signs a 1-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Former NBA player Darius Miles attempts to sneak a concealed gun through airport security.

Mark Cuban provides his guide to getting rich.

Duke basketball contacts the NCAA for rule interpretation.

A new venture by Brand Affinity Technologies called Fantapper could revolutionize professional athletes’ media presence.

California district judge upholds a class action suit against EA Sports, which alleges EA unlawfully used college athletes’ likenesses without their consent.  Should the athletes prevail, EA could owe plaintiffs up to 25 percent of its annual revenue.

Friday Morning Workout

The legendary Larry Bird illustrates the gamesmanship behind professional basketball.

The NFLPA executive board and the player representatives for each of the 32 teams voted unanimously on Monday to approve the proposed CBA and end the 4½-month lockout.

Click here to get a breakdown of the final agreement in laymen terms.

In the fight between the league/owners and the NFLPA, which resulted in a new CBA, who are the winners and losers?

Should the NCAA present a case to the NFL that Terrelle Pryor could have been eligible for any portion of the upcoming 2011 college football season, The NFL likely will deny Pryor’s application to participate in the 2011 supplemental draft.  According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, “[the supplemental NFL draft is for players whose circumstances have changed in an unforeseen way after the regular (college) draft. It is not a mechanism for simply bypassing the regular (draft).”  Though the NFL has yet to consider Pryor’s eligibility to participate in the supplemental draft, on Tuesday, OSU’s athletic director issued a letter declaring Pryor ineligible for the entirety of the 2011 college football season.

After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge in NY last Friday, Jets’ star WR Braylon Edwards could face jail time if a Cleveland judge determines that the plea violates his probation related to an October 2009 incident of disorderly conduct.

Cooperstown honors new Hall of Fame inductees.

The NBA’s 2010-11 season audit reveals that basketball-related income and player compensation increased by close to 5%, a sizable jump in comparison to the last two seasons.

The NBA players who intend to jump ship for Europe next season could learn a lot from the American-born, European veteran/legend Marcus Brown.

Taking advantage of his time off during the lockout while demonstrating the importance of education, Cavaliers’ guard Baron Davis returns to the UCLA campus 12 years after he left.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as an ESPN guess writer, attributes the loss of revenue by small-market NBA teams to the slow development (or total lack thereof) of players who enter the league too early with enormous contracts.

An NCAA special panel proposes to broaden the definition of “agent” to include “people marketing athletes to colleges, not just professional teams, for profit.”  This would include family members, such as Cam Newton’s father Cecil, who marketed Cam to Mississippi State for money prior to Cam’s enrollment with Auburn.

Following the NFL lockout, is it possible for fantasy football to recover as a moneymaking industry this year?

This summer has seen business as usual for NFL ad sales.

Michael Rosenberg of SI gives his take on why elite student-athletes should be paid.

NBA star Kevin Love gives Pro Beach Volleyball a go.

Peter King of SI reports HBO has cancelled its 2011 season of Hard Knocks.